Two years after Obama won the White House, voter anxiety about the struggling economy and discontent with his leadership fueled big Republican gains that toppled Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from power and ushered in a new era of divided government. Networks projected Republicans would pick up at least 60 House seats, more than the 39 they needed for a majority that would elevate conservative John Boehner to House speaker, put Republicans in charge of House committees and slam the brakes on Obama’s agenda. “Our new majority will be prepared to do things differently,” Boehner told supporters at a Washington hotel.
“It starts with cutting spending instead of increasing it, reducing the size of government instead of increasing it, and reforming the way Congress works.” Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid won the country’s most high-profile Senate race after a brutal battle with Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle in Nevada. He said he was determined to renew the struggle to create jobs and bolster the economy. Democrats also won key Senate races in West Virginia and California, where Senator Barbara Boxer won re-election, ensuring they would retain at least a slender Senate majority. Senate Republicans gained six seats, and the re-election bids of two other Democratic incumbents — Michael Bennet in Colorado and Patty Murray in Washington — were too close to call. Republican control of the House will likely spark legislative gridlock, weakening Obama’s hand in fights over the extension of soon-to-expire income-tax cuts and the passage of comprehensive energy or immigration bills.